Thomas Mai has produced or executive produced six films and is a former sales agent turned crowdfunding pioneer. He is from Denmark and lives in Sydney, Australia with his Brazilian wife Josie. For the last two years Thomas has worked at FanDependent, together with Josh Pomeranz from Spectrum Films to run Crowdfunding campaigns and Crowdsourced distribution through a grant from Screen Australia. Thomas has teamed up with Pozible to help five filmmakers reach a crowdfunding goal of a minimum $100,000 through the ‘Mission:Pozible’ program: http://www.pozible.com/mission-pozible
Here is the second part of his incredible piece on the intricacies of crowdfunding campaigns. Read Part 1 HERE
I cannot emphasize this enough: as a filmmaker your video is the single most important tool to succeed in your crowdfunding efforts.
Do not underestimate how important it is to get it right. When I launch a crowdfunding campaign, my team and I usually do about 10 drafts of the script before shooting the video, then we reshoot many times before editing. You are not ready to launch your crowdfunding campaign before your video is perfect: end of story.
Too many people just show a trailer or have bad lighting, sound or focus in their video which will trigger people to stop watching. You have to remember that even though your film and crowdfunding campaign is a huge important milestone in your life it means nothing to people who do not know you. We live in a world where we are constantly being bombarded with texts, instant messaging, viral videos, advertising, trailers, TV, sports, social media, gaming consoles... anything to grab our attention.
There is so much noise out there done by brilliant people in billion dollar industries and unfortunately that is who you are competing with. If your video is below average people will jump to the next thing before you can say even say ‘crowdfunding’. So spend a lot of time to get it right. As a matter of pride the video is supposed to be the one area where filmmakers should have a huge advantage. Don’t fail the most basic film job as you will never get another chance to make a first impression.
5. Switch your thinking from ‘ what ’ to ‘ why ’
When you pitch to a distributor, sales agent, financier, government, tv station etc. you pitch the WHAT. This is what they will have taught you in film school. The what is: What is the budget? What is the film about? What demographic will see the film? What is the cast etc. You know the drill.
But in crowdfunding you are pitching directly to the audience and they don’t care about the WHAT. They only care about the WHY. Why are you making this film? Why is this film important? Why should I as a member of the audience care? And most importantly WHY should I give you my hard earned money when I can send money to a charity, go to the movies or have drinks with some of my best friends for the amount you want from me? If you can’t answer this paramount question then you are not ready to crowdfund.
6. Move people through emotion
Any well done commercial will get you emotionally involved in 30 seconds. They either do that by reminding you of pain you might have experienced or by showing how awesome it would be if you bought XYZ. Sometimes it is a combination of both (and yes I am simplifying things for the sake of the length of this article). Your video should ideally be two minutes maximum, this is more than adequate to get your message across, (and attention spans online are incredibly short).
You also have to choose someone to be your project’s presenter/ambassador. Why? Do you want to give money to someone that you have never even laid eyes on? The video is the best way to create a connection between you and your audience. The person should do an introduction on WHY you are making the film and the length should be around 15 - 20 seconds, then you cut to a minute of trailer/teaser footage and then you end with an outro from the same person explaining WHY you need people to donate to your campaign. I advise you to check out the videos that we did for the 11 films I was involved in, you can find them online at the platforms listed in the chart (above).
7. B2B to B2C
Something has changed over the last 10 years. You might not have noticed it but with the rise of social media, crowdfunding platforms, YouTube channels, iTunes, VOD, sales from your own website, we as filmmakers are quietly shifting away from being in B2B (that is business school talk for ‘Business 2 Business’).
In other words when you needed money to make your film you would go to businesses out there to write you a check and in return you would hand over the rights to your movie and then they would go and deal with those pesky people called ‘The Audience’. This is what filmmakers have been doing for the last 100 years or so.
But now you are becoming more and more of a B2C (fancy definition for ‘Business 2 Consumers’) which basically means that you have started or should start to deal directly with your audience. This is terrifying for many filmmakers, even those who have no problems dealing with the public when the film is completed. But the idea of dealing with the public on a daily basis is a scary proposition.
There is a significant upside to operating in a B2C market: building a loyal audience.
Even the most active filmmakers can only make a new film every two years (and that is a great batting average) two years is a long time to chase financing and your next project. Why not start to have an ongoing relationship with your audience throughout those two years and make your film career more sustainable? Remember that you are only as strong as the fans you represent.
8. What to offer for pledges
Do rewards matter? Yes and no. No because the average donation we got across the 11 films was $194.30 and most of them gave above and beyond on what the actual pledge level was. But yes, people will be happy to receive something from your film. The more personalized it is, the more it means to them.
The more mass produced it is the less meaning it has. Generally speaking mass produced rewards ie DVD’s, downloads, t-shirts, posters etc. should be at the entry points between the $10 - $100 pledge. And the more exclusive visit to the set, meet the cast, dinner party, premiere tickets, after party tickets, co- and executive producer tickets should be at the higher end of the scale between $100 - $10,000. Try to offer unique rewards that are limited by time or quantity.
9. The three circles of influence and the monetary goal
How are you going to get traffic/visitors to your crowdfunding link I hear you ask? Great question.
Think of all of your friends, families and close social media contact as your first circle of influence. These are the people who most likely will give you money and support your latest film idea no matter how bad it is. They will support you because they know you. I estimate that 50% of the people in your first circle will give you support.
The second circle is friends of friends, old and forgotten roommates and that girl you kissed in college so many years ago. They will support you because they know you and because they like the idea. If they don’t like the idea they will not support you. About 15% of them will probably give you money.
The third and final circle are the most important if you are going for more than $50,000. These are people who have no idea who you are but who like your idea. You contact them through PR, blogs, ads, general awareness etc. You should expect about 1 - 2% of them will probably give you money.
The numbers above should give you a rough idea of how much money you can ask for. Find out how many people you can contact and do the math. It is all a numbers game.
10. Its not about the money
Most people are so focused on the money when it comes to crowdfunding, but in my opinion that is the least important part. At the end of the day it is all about raising money for your film. But if you forget about the money, then crowdfunding becomes a great test tool to see if anybody cares about your film. It takes an average of three years to make a film (coming up with the idea, many drafts of scripts, financing, casting, pre - production, production, post - production, marketing and distribution). Think about it. How often has a studio, great director or amazing cast been wrong and completely failed at the box office?
Crowdfunding is all about finding out if there is enough demand for you to justify spending the next three years of your life on the film. If not, be happy, change your idea and move on to the next film. The normal way of testing the demand is to do test screenings but that is AFTER the film has already been shot. Crowdfunding allows us to pitch the idea to consumers and if enough go for it then by all means make the film.
11. Inverted bell curve
Great, you launched your campaign and you are up and running and for the first couple of days you are pulling in $5K - $20K. Everyone is happy, but then the pledges abruptly slow down. What happened? You have exhausted your first and second circle of influence and you have not yet managed to tap in to the third circle of influence. This is where all the work is. You will go through a dry spell in the middle and hopefully your campaign should pick up speed at the end of your campaign resulting in the inverted bell curve. This is normal but fight hard to not make it so. You want daily activity. Monitor the views of the trailer and the donations closely and find out where the traffic is coming from.
This is where all your research should pay off so you can contact all the organisations, blogs, names, journalists in your massive spreadsheet.
If one thing doesn’t work, try another. I always think of the US Marine corps mantra:
Adapt, Improvise, Overcome...until it all works out.
Yes, you will get frustrated and want to give up many times during your campaign, this is normal.
Believe me, I have been there 11 times!
I wish you the best of luck